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Jan 29 2014

Understanding General Physical Preparedness (GPP)

By: Coach Ryan Chavez

Image Courtesy: crossfitanaerobicinc.com

Crossfit OG (original gangster), Chris Spealler, answers the question “do you want a 3 minute mile or an 800lbs back squat” by stating, “I want the best of both worlds.”

General physical preparedness (GPP) is something that all crossfit athletes possess in some sort of way. This basically means that if you are asked to run a mile or back squat heavy, you’re going to be pretty decent at both, especially compared to an athlete who only runs or an athlete who only back squats. A crossfit athlete will have “the best of both worlds” because they will be trained and prepared for whatever is thrown their way.

Given a list of, let’s say, 3 different workouts, one being a marathon, one being to find your heaviest back squat and the last being max muscle ups in 5 minutes and  3 different types of athletes, one being a seasoned marathon runner, a body builder and lastly, a crossfit athlete, what results could we expect across all three WODs?

The marathon runner would take the run hands down, but will only be able to maybe back squat their body weight and probably knock out a few muscle ups, not too bad, right? The body builder will destroy the back squat, but can you see that 250+ pound athlete running a marathon? Muscle ups? Ahhh! Now let’s take the crossfitter. This athlete will finish somewhere in the middle of the marathon, lift a decent amount compared to body weight on the back squat, and will kill the muscle ups. Not one workout will be something that the crossfit athlete will be just terrible at. The crossfit athlete will be the most well-rounded and most prepared athlete when blindly being asked to do certain movements or workouts. This is called targeting programming vs bias programming.

In crossfit, we are targeting weaknesses every single day we step into the gym. The goal with crossfit training should involve us being good at many things and not just being great at one single movement or workout. Of course, we all have our one/few workouts or lifts that we know we can just crush, which is great, especially if you are able to recognize that and build off of it, but one thing we must not do is neglect those other areas which we know we struggle. If you love to overhead squat, GREAT, but that does not mean you have to overhead squat everyday. If you hate handstand push ups, that’s OK, you’re not alone, take some time after your workout to work on them and eventually master them. On that same token, if you struggle at something in particular, do not make it an obsession and forget or neglect all other areas of your fitness.

The moral of targeting vs bias is simple, you must first recognize your strengths and weaknesses , then key in on those areas which you want improvement. Target your weakness but do not be bias to those areas of great strength. The same goes the other way, don’t abandon something you’re good at, just because you think you’ve mastered it, fitness goals are lifelong and have no expiration date.
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Jan 28 2014

When to Listen/ When to Push

By: Coach Josh Duran

So I am sitting here watching the 2013 Crossfit Games on ESPN. Rich Froning is in the last event, the 12th WOD of the 5 day competition (with one of those days being a rest day), and I’m watching him as holds an axel bar loaded up to 160 pounds up over his head, performing walking lunges towards the finish line (and his 3rd straight Crossfit Games title). As he nearly goes the full 90 feet unbroken I can’t help but think, “How does he do it?! How can after all he has put his body through this weekend, how can he just shut everything out and shut off his mind, shut off the fatigue, shut off the pain, and just tell his body to keep moving?” Obviously, I am not going to sit here and say that I know his secret of how he did it. Obviously, he is an incredible athlete! But as I sit there and watch him, I think, “This is a guy who can ignore his body and just GO, because he has taken the time to listen to his body.”

So you’re in the gym for the 7 pm class with Big D, and for the strength portion you’re doing some hang squat cleans, you just finished a set at 105 pounds. You definitely felt it after that set, but you got through it. Your partner says, “Throw those 10s on each side”, then your partner proceeds to step in and knock those out fairly easily. It’s your turn again, and that is when you are faced with a difficult decision, do you have your partner help take off those 10s before your set, or do you just step up and try the heavier weight? In this situation, there is a correct answer, but no one knows it except for your body. Your body knows how it felt during that previous set, maybe your body can perform the heavier weight, maybe it can’t. But the problem some people encounter is that three letter word we’ve all heard…EGO!!! Once we stop listening to our bodies and start listening to our EGO, then we are in trouble.

Do not get me wrong, I believe that if we want to improve our fitness, we definitely need to push ourselves, but it needs to be within the parameters of our current abilities. And our current abilities are not just limited to strength. It is a combination of strength, technique, form, range of motion, flexibility, and practice. So that is when you need to ask yourself, “Is my body ready for this new challenge?” If you are honest with yourself, whether the answer is YES or NO, then you will gain that confidence of being able to push your body, within the proper limitations. One day the answer may be, “Yes I think I can get this weight.” The next day it may be “No, I don’t feel that my body can handle that just yet.” Whatever the case may be, listening to your body will lead to your body adapting to the new challenges, the heavier weights, the faster running etc.

As you progress in your CrossFit journey following this mindset, your body will reach the point where it is naturally ready to push those limitations, wherever they may be, even if its just a little bit further than before. Repeating the process of listening to your body and being honest with yourself on an everyday basis will just build the confidence in your abilities that we see in great athletes like Froning. The process may be slow and it may be frustrating at times, but patience is key. As you listen to your body during preparations, this is setting the stage for you to be able to make your body listen to you when it counts. It is such an amazing feeling when you are at the end of a tough WOD, and you walk over to the bar to perform the final 10 hang squat cleans… and you are relaxed and confident. Why are you so relaxed and confident? Because you listened to your body, you took the time to trust the process! Sure your body is tired, but you know what your body is capable of because you truly understand its capabilities and limits. Now it’s time to step up to the bar with CONFIDENCE, and then you can tell your body to be quiet…because it’s time for the body to listen to you!

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Jan 27 2014

Why Cheese is Best Left off Your Plate

By: Coach Noemi Dimuzio

Ever wondered why it’s so difficult to give up cheese? The truth is cheese has an addictive compound that affects the brain making it extra difficult to live without. Along with its addictive compounds, though, cheese also has a negative effect on your health.

Since the 1980s, scientists have known that milk and dairy products can have traces of the chemical morphine, cheese having the highest. How exactly did morphine get in there? During the cheesemaking process, lactose sugar and water is extracted from milk, but what is left behind is a high concentration of milk proteins known as casein. Casein breaks into casomorphins when digested which produces opiate effects. In cheese, this casein is extra-concentrated, and so is the level of casomorphins when consumed, resulting in a pleasurable effect that can be hard, but necessary to give up.

Not only does is have drug like effects on your brain, but it can also wreck havoc on your body.Let’s take a look at how cheese is bad for your health.

  • Cheese releases histamine in your system. This is one reason why some people may break out into a rash when consuming cheese.
  • Cheese can trigger migraine attacks and arthritis flares.
  • Cheese is also high in fat, a 2 oz. serving has 15 grams of fat and 350 milligrams of sodium content. Seventy percent of its calories are from fat and not only can it make you gain weight, but because of its high fat content about half of all rheumatoid arthritis flare ups are caused by consuming cheese. The fattiness of cheese can also be partly responsible for high blood pressure and an increase in your LDL(bad cholesterol) that builds up and blocks arteries.
  • Cheese also increases insulin like growth factor (IGF-I) that leads to cancer and abnormal cell growth.

Each person reacts differently to cheese or dairy products. The best way to know if it has a negative effect on your body is to eliminate it from your diet for 30 days, then slowly reintroduce it back into your diet. Unless you have removed these problematic foods and reset your system you may never know whether it affects you negatively or not. Your CrossFit gym has many whole 30 and paleo challenges that can help you reset your system. There are also many paleo books out there that can help get you back on track, for instance The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf is a great book to help you on your way or ask your coach how to get you back on track with whole 30 or paleo ideas.
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Jan 13 2014

Why You Should Master Strict Pull Ups Before Kipping

By: Coach Renee Telles

Mastering the kipping pull up is one of the most common goals of new Crossfitters.  Just take a look at our goal board next to the bleachers.  Nearly 80% of our athletes’ goals include a designated number of pull-ups.

As a coach, one of the most common questions I get asked is “what can I do to get my kipping pull-up?”  My answer is always “do more strict pull-ups.”  And of course my answer is usually met with a look of confusion.  Rarely do I have the opportunity to explain WHY patience is the key to mastering the kipping pull-up as well as preventing injury.  So here’s my advice:

Let me begin by explaining a little about the shoulder.  While the shoulder joint is built for mobility, we must take into account that it is naturally designed for internal rotation (rotation toward the center of the body).  There are 5 major muscles that position our shoulder into internal rotation:  Deltoid; Subscapularis; Teres major; Latissium Doris; and the Pectoralis Major.  Compare that to the two muscles that are responsible for external rotation:  teres minor and infraspinatus.

What does the anatomy of the shoulder have to do with kipping pull-ups?

Many Crossfit coaches, myself included, teach the kipping pull-up by referencing the hollow rock and superman positions.  The hollow rock position places the shoulder into internal rotation, whereas the superman position forces external rotation.  Practicing these positions on the pull-up rig without performing an actual pull up is fine.  Disaster strikes when an athlete forces the pull up by using a big kip when they haven’t developed the muscles needed to pull their own body weight over the bar without assistance.  The downward phase is even worse as your shoulders now have to bear the weight of the body in addition to the downward momentum.  Sure, you can force your way through a few kipping pull-ups, but if your shoulder muscles are not strong enough, your body will find a way to withstand the forces acting on it.

The ligaments and tissues that hold the muscles together will be compromised and injury may result.

Check your ego at the door and master the strict pull-up.  Once you can perform at least 5 strict pull-ups, your shoulders are now strong enough for the kip!

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Jan 08 2014

Using Knee Sleeves for CrossFit

By: Coach Samantha Bencomo

Photo Credit: Rogue Fitness

Knee sleeves can be a touchy subject in the gym. Some athletes swear by them- you won’t see them doing an air squat without them; while others see them more as a fashion statement than a solution for knee pain. Some also question whether wearing a knee sleeve prevents the knee from getting stronger by providing additional support. The truth is that there are multiple benefits to using knee sleeves for CrossFit – the key is determining whether or not you actually need knee sleeves and understanding when it is appropriate to wear them.

Before You Resort to Knee Sleeves: 

For the athlete experiencing discomfort or knee pain, it’s best to identify what is triggering the pain first. Can it be fixed with rolling out? Are you using improper mechanics while squatting? Do you have minor tendonitis? If the answer is yes to any of these, those fancy blue sleeves aren’t going to magically solve your problem. They may for a short period of time alleviate some pressure from the knee, but as you become stronger and more conditioned the problem will only worsen. It may surprise some that knee pain is only sometimes caused by a literal knee problem. In many cases, muscle imbalances, tightness, or bad conditioning in the quadriceps and the hips is the issue. Focus on strengthening and mobilizing the surrounding muscles, particularly the quadriceps. Building up your quads makes your knees more stable and less susceptible to injury.  Secondly, work on improving your form and engaging your hamstrings when you squat- disengaging at the bottom will put additional stress on the knee. In other cases simple solutions such as fish oil or glucosamine-chondroitin supplementation can help, as can anti-inflammatories, mobility balls, ice therapy, and dynamic rest (continuing workout while avoiding loading of the knee.)

When & Why to Use Knee Wraps:

If you have had prior knee injuries, bad knees in general, and have increased your squat load and volume, sleeves can help prevent injury and provide overall support by eliminating unwanted gliding and twisting at the knee. In addition to stability, they also keep muscles and connective tissue warm- helping to promote healing and reduce swelling and pain after a WOD or strength session.  The blue knee wraps you typically see around the gym are also made of a material called “neoprene” the same material used in wet suits. This material is designed to retain heat and insulate the joint even during periods of inactivity. The only downside of this design feature  is that sweat tends to accumulate around the knee instead of evaporating- causing a smelly knee sleeve, especially if they aren’t regularly washed. The most popular brand of knee sleeves in CrossFit is Rehband.

Overall, if used for the right reasons, knee sleeves can be beneficial to your strength and performance – but they shouldn’t be your first solution to knee pain. It’s always best to ask a coach to look at your squat form and evaluate your mobility when experiencing knee pain. If even after self-therapy (ice, stretching, foam rolling and form correction) you are still experiencing knee pain, its time to visit a doctor and get a more accurate diagnosis.

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